Chinaman’s Hat, Mokoli’i Island

Google image of Mokoli'i

Google image of Mokoli’i

For years I’ve looked at the small island near Kualoa Regional Park and always appreciated this picturesque gem seemingly close (actually 450 meters) offshore. While camping at the park, I would often gaze out and wonder what it would be like to explore the island, but the opportunity never really presented itself. Recently, I got a spark of motivation and decided it was time to check out this curious little isle.

The only realistic option I had would be to paddle on a surfboard, as I’ve heard many horror stories of people who tried to walk or swim and got caught in the high tide or strong currents. At the early stages of planning this adventure, I had no access to a kayak. I had a conversation with Roy, the owner of RV’s Ocean Sports, and asked about a shortboard rental because it could fit in my car. He chuckled and said that wasn’t a good option because a shortboard would sink below the surface, and he recommended getting something more buoyant like a nine-foot longboard. So I arranged for the board rental and to borrow surf racks, and things were starting to come together.

My two friends, Mia and Joe, committed to joining me, and the plan was truly taking shape. Then it morphed in a much better way. Mia got access to two kayaks and a pickup truck. So now there were three people, a means to transport our equipment, and a one-man and a two-man kayak. I checked the tide charts and figured the best time to go, which was at low tide, of course.

Loading up the kayaks

Loading up the kayaks

When we loaded up the kayaks in the back of the truck, we saw that they stuck out pretty darn far. Joe channeled his inner Boy Scout and crafted his own version of seafaring knots (which were genius) and safely secured the boats. We were on our way. After entering the park, we drove to the very last parking lot. We organized our gear and dragged the boats to the beach by the lifeguard stand.

Ready to launch

Ready to launch

There’s a protective barrier there for the swimmers, and it’s the perfect calm place to launch. Off we go! It was a nice low tide, and I noticed a couple of people walking out to the island, which would definitely take some time and require good swimming ability and necessitate a pair of reef shoes. I also saw one person on a stand-up paddle board. (There’s no doubt the wind and the choppy surface conditions of the water would make for a very-challenging crossing for a beginner-level SUP boardrider.)

Choppy waters

Choppy waters

The kayak paddle to the island only took about 20 minutes. In addition to the wind and chop, there were small waves when we got closer to the island, big enough to flip a kayak if they hit just right, so I had to navigate at a careful angle. Paddling through the rippling water and chop was a workout, especially going against the wind. The reef bottom was visible just a few feet below the surface the entire way.

We've arrived!

We’ve arrived!

Arriving at the rocky beach, we stowed and secured the boats with a rope, as they could float away when the tide started to roll in. After we landed, a young couple, both perhaps around 18 y.o., came in after us. They were on a shortboard. I asked them about their trip over, and they said it had been pretty difficult. He paddled and she held on to the back of the board and kicked. All they had with them was the swim suits on their bodies and bare feet. No shoes. No drinking water. Nothing. But they climbed to the very top of Mokoli’i and gingerly walked across the lava rocks in their shoeless feet to swim at the beach on the other side. Ahhh…to be so young and carefree.

Trail to the top

Trail to the top

Directly above where the kayaks are on the beach is where the trail to the top of the “Hat” begins. I forgot to time how long it took to get to the top, but it couldn’t have taken longer than 20 minutes. Including the trip up, the time spent at the top and trekking back down took an hour. The trail is pretty easy until that last stretch right before the top. Yikes! Rock climbing is involved. Fear of heights; not acceptable. Joe scaled ahead to see if there was any easier route. Nope. So up we VERY CAREFULLY climbed. While looking for solid grips in the rock and good footholds, I wondered to myself, “How the heck am I going to get down?”

Victory!

Victory!

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Looking towards Kualoa

Once at the top the panoramic view is amazing. You can see Kaneohe Bay and the sandbar, the Ko’olau mountain range, Moli’i Pond, Kualoa Regional Park, and the big beautiful turquoise open sea.

Going down.....

Going down…..

Now the going down part. Joe seemed to have no trouble maneuvering. He stood below us, and one by one he directed where we could put our hands and feet to climb down. Without his help, I don’t think I could have done that alone. We were a little shaky, but Joe was able to guide us safely back to the trail.

IMG_9166Once on the beach again, we decided to check out the other side of the island. Within five minutes we were at a nice little cove on the oceanside that was great for a swim. By this time, and on a Saturday, there were quite a few other people on the island as well as three dogs. IMG_9170We swam, relaxed, and enjoyed the lunch we had brought along. The time came to make our way back to Kualoa Beach. The return trip only took ten minutes.

Busy day on the island

Busy day on the island

It didn’t seem much easier but sure was faster. We had a fabulous day of adventures on Chinaman’s Hat. I’m so happy we were able to kayak out, because it would have been difficult to bring lunch, etc., on a longboard. I finally can look at Mokoli’i Island and know I’ve stood on the very tip of the hat.

Return trip

Return trip

I recommend the experience with several bits of advice: (1) Make sure you start at low tide; (2) wear reef shoes, your feet will thank you when you’re standing on coral and lava rocks; (3) bring water and a snack to enjoy on the island; (4) bring your phone in a waterproof bag made for electronic devices if you want to take pictures; and (5) put on your big-boy pants and go for the climb!

Don't push me off!

Don’t push me off!

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Short walk to the other side

Pretty exotic wild flower

Pretty exotic wild flower

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Olive Tree Cafe

Olive Tree Cafe SignThere’s no way I would pretend to be a foodie–personally knowing several chefs and others who truly are food experts. I just want to share places to eat that I really enjoy. So my first restaurant post is the Olive Tree Café.
This little eatery offers Greek/Mediterranean cuisine in a no-frills way. It is located at 4614 Kilauea Ave Honolulu, HI 96816.

Olive Tree Cafe MenuDon’t expect fast service, as their slogan is “Not so fast food.” I have never been disappointed with the fare here, and I’ve enjoyed it many times. There is a quaint little shop next door called Oliver where you can pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy with your food, since the restaurant is BYOB.

Olive Tree Cafe CaseOliver is definitely worth browsing in while you wait for your delicious plate to be prepared at the Café. Hopefully there’s someone to guard a table for you, as the Café can get quite busy.

Order at the counter, find a table and wait for your name to be called. Please note the Café is cash only. Oliver accepts credit cards. Parking for the Café is limited, but street parking is available. Hours: 5:00-10:00 pm daily.

I had the special. It was delicious! I can't remember the name.

I had the special. It was delicious! I can’t remember the name.

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Lost in Kahana, the Nakoa Trail

Driving into the Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park, it was overcast, but the surroundings were beautiful. We were in high spirits, anticipating a short tropical hike with a fresh-water swim. We stopped at the Visitor Center where we were greeted by a Hawaiian woman who was full of aloha and smiles. Once on the porch of the Center, we met Lance who beckoned us inside the small house. He showed us a few Hawaiian artifacts and explained their use and how they were made. After chatting for a while, we signed the Visitor Center guest book and looked at the posted maps and read the information about the flora and fauna we would encounter on our hike. We learned that Kahana Valley is the wettest valley on the island of Oahu. I read the warning to always stay on the trail so as not to get lost. I’m not an extreme adventurer. I would NEVER go off a trail. I grabbed a flyer with a map of the Nakoa Trail with additional guidance and information. Lance gave us the directions to the trailhead and where to park. So we started our hike doing everything right. We were prepared, responsible and positive.

We set out on our adventure to explore the 3.5 mile Nakoa Trail. Lance said it shouldn’t take us more than 2.5 hours. We were laughing and giggling as we drove off, looking forward to a great little hike. Our enthusiasm wasn’t hampered by the misty, gray day. After parking in the designated area, we went up a road that had a few rural-style homes.

After the homes the road continues to the trail head

After the homes, the road continues to the trailhead

Walking to the trail head there are several family homes.

On the way to the trailhead, there are several family homes

It was quiet, with only the sounds of forest birds and the rain drops landing on the thick vegetation. At the trailhead, you can go left or right. It’s a loop, so it doesn’t really matter. But I wanted to go left because I had read about a swimming hole that was very close to the trailhead if you started in that direction. And sure enough it was a short walk to the river pool where we encountered three young people playing and swinging on a rope with a tire on it.

Fresh water pool

Fresh water pool

We already had our swim suits on underneath, so we shed our hiking clothes and went in for a swim in the clear water. 11295541_10206104705554165_108944483550330650_nIt felt refreshing even though it was a cool and cloudy day. The water was a comfortable temperature, not too cold. We swam, snapped some photos and enjoyed the tranquility of this nice little pool and then decided it was time to get on with our day. Very soon into the hike we were we IMG_8903IMG_8905met with deep mud. My first thought was “Hmm…maybe we shouldn’t do this hike today, it is unbelievably muddy.” I didn’t want to say it out loud because we were there, it had been an hour drive from town, and I didn’t want to be a wimp. So let’s just do this!11137175_10206104705834172_2504301150634949156_n

After about an hour on the Nakoa trail, I decided I didn’t want to do this trail again for lack of any “openness.” There were barely any views due to the dense rain forest under a thick canopy of trees. The mosquitoes were off the charts! Mia was prepared with repellent, which we brought out quite a few times. IMG_8925But still they buzzed around our ears all day. Interestingly enough, almost every forest hike I’ve been on and read about, mosquitoes have always been mentioned. But up until yesterday, IMG_8916I had never seen any on a hike. At first we gingerly tried all kinds of tactics to get around the mud, but eventually we gave up and just trudged straight through, sometimes up to our ankles. Occasionally the mud was covered with Lauhala leaves and was squishy under our feet. We were in a great mood. This was just a different type of hiking experience to put under our belts. While trekking through the woods, we came across several amazingly old and absolutely huge grandfather trees. We stopped to admire IMG_8917these majestic monsters that are so rarely seen around Oahu.

IMG_8901The trail had markers, and in the beginning it all seemed a no-brainer. We were going counter-clockwise on the loop, and according to our map we passed Station 4 (the pool), then Station 3, then Station 2. And that’s where we went wrong.

There are several bunkers that remain from the military's combat training circa 1943-1945

There are several bunkers that remain from the military’s combat training, circa 1943-1945

We were at the bunkers that were mentioned on our map, and we chose a trail at some sort of intersection that led us into a bamboo forest.  It was a well-trodden trail, but after a time it began to get pretty treacherous, and we suspected we might have gone awry. The forest got so thick and dark it just felt really wrong, especially since we had been walking for over 4 hours and the loop was only supposed to take three hours max.

This inviting trail is where it all went bad

This inviting trail is where it all went bad

This is where we started to worry. We had a feeling we were on a pig hunting trail…and that’s not good. The path became challenging with slippery drop-offs on one side. There were times where we literally had to climb over and around a large tree on a cliff just to continue on the trail. We were deep in “who-knows-where,” but there were still pink ribbons infrequently marking the trail. Those ribbons became our lifeline; pig hunting trail or not.

There I am on the right, crawling through the river

There I am on the right, crawling through the river

11391235_10206104710754295_838285624767854520_nScenic river views were intermittent, and at first seemed very lovely, but quickly became a curse as we must have crossed the river over a dozen times (there are only supposed to be two crossings on the Nakoa Trail), and each time picking up some sort of trail on the other side was getting more and more difficult. Every time we crossed the river we would wash the mud off of our legs and shoes and then search for a IMG_8950ribbon to lead the way. We were losing light. We were getting scared. WE WANTED OUT!!!

While trying to keep our spirits up, a feeling of desperation was taking over. After hours of trudging through mud it became obvious that we were lost. Although we were on a trail, we had no idea where it would lead. It was raining and the forest was closing in and becoming constricting.

The trail sometimes became vague

The trail at times became unclear

The trail wasn’t on the map we picked up at the visitor center. The forest grew dark. Dark as if it could’ve been 7:00 at night. Dark like it was dusk, and that was very disconcerting. The last couple of hours our conversation grew quiet and our demeanor leaned towards helplessness. Mia thought she might try 911, but of course we had no service on our phones. After being on the trail for hours, low and behold, we ended back up at the bunkers where we had started at Station 2 and realized we had just taken about a 5-6 mile detour full of switchbacks and river crossings. My “mapmyrun” says we hiked about 10 miles in around 4.5 hours. Aahhhh!!!

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If you look closely, you can see a small pink ribbon tied to a tree in front of Mia

Next game plan: We brought out our little map and read that from the bunkers we could find a way to a water tank. It read: “Going right will take you to the reservoir tank and back down a road to the trailhead (about 1.5 miles).” So if we could just find that road it would be our ticket OUT. There was a tiny arrow nailed to a tree that pointed right and read: “water tank.” By this time it was quite late in the day. We were back on a trail sloshing through the mud under the dark forest canopy. We became uncertain of anything and both of our stomachs were bothering us. That sick feeling inside; a little bit of desperation and a lot of scared. The trail was narrow and seemed to go forever and finally…Eureka! We spotted the large water tank. We followed the fence on the side of the reservoir and found the road. Mia and I literally hugged and cried and jumped up and down for joy. We were lost and now we were found!

The road to salvation

The road to salvation

It was almost 6:00 in the evening on the Eastside, and on a rainy overcast day it looked liked dusk. In the almost five hours that we were back on the trails we only saw two other people, not including the ones at the pool. I guess this time of year most people know how muddy it is. I had read a review on Yelp, and mud was mentioned, but not of the magnitude that we had trudged through. I suppose August or September would be a better time for this hike.

We didn’t do anything wrong or irresponsible. Taking that wrong trail probably happens to many. Although there were markers, there should be more. Especially at intersections. We kept our wits about us and did not panic (although that probably would’ve come later). While walking down the road, we both shared our thoughts on how we would have managed the night in the forest. We weren’t worried about water, we had brought enough. We weren’t worried about food, a few hours hungry is not a big deal. We weren’t worried about being cold, lucky we live Hawaii. But what we were worried about how we would sleep in the mud. Everything, everywhere was saturated with the rains. The tremendous mosquito population was a concern, as well as centipedes and other crawly things. And then…there are the wild pigs.

The State Park map of the 3.5 mile Nekoa trail.

The State Park map of the 3.5 mile Nekoa trail.

Still haunted by the whole experience, I didn’t sleep well, even though I was exhausted by the hike and trauma. I was awake for hours in the night plagued with thoughts of the day.

Our route taken from my phone app "mapmyrun"

Our route taken from my phone app “mapmyrun”

I texted Mia the map of our route from my “mapmyrun” and told her I couldn’t sleep. She texted back the next morning saying she had dreams of frantically hiking. We were definitely affected on a deep level by this experience. In retrospect, what I could have done better was read more reviews and information on this hike. But it was supposed to be a simple and easy 3.5 mile loop.

I will definitely go back one day to swim in that beautiful clear pool. That was awesome. I’ll be skipping the Nakoa Trail. It has left me with a bad memory that I’d rather not revisit.

Forest Fungi

Forest Fungi

Wild orchids

Wild orchids

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Waimano Waterfalls Trail

Manana Trailhead

Manana trailhead

There’s been a lot written on the Waimano Waterfalls and pools, but I’d like to add a couple of things that were never mentioned. The first point is that while it’s true that it’s only three miles to the falls and back from the trail head, it can be about four miles (according to my “mapmyrun” app) round trip from where you park your car. On a Saturday, it could be a half mile away. The trail head is easy to find: Just locate Komo Mai Drive in Pearl City and make your way to the very end of the street. This is where your adventure begins.
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It was the first time for me and my two friends on this hike. We started up the trail, which is actually paved for a stretch. The path is worn and well maintained. There is a lush forest canopy of Iron Woods, Koa and Eucalyptus trees along the way. I was immediately struck by the singing of the wind rushing through the Iron Wood trees. LOVE this sound. IMG_8536As we trekked along, we stopped to enjoy the spectacular views of the valley. As Suzanne put it, “There are so many vibrant colors and layers of depth in the landscape.” We were hiking along for quite some time and realized we were going up, not down, towards any stream. Yep, we missed the fork that leads to the falls and went two miles out of our way.

Look for this tree

Look for this tree

This is my second point that was not mentioned in other articles: There is a tree that is actually quite obvious, that has the letters “WF” (for waterfall) and an arrow spray painted on it. The large tree also had a pink ribbon around it. In retrospect, we couldn’t believe we missed this obvious signal, but we were on the far left side and we just kept walking along the Manana Trail which goes six miles up to the Ko’olau summit.

Once on the correct trail it immediately started going down, and we knew we were on the right track. There were many other people, as well, of all ages, some with small children walking or riding piggyback. Personally I wouldn’t recommend bringing small children unless you are a well-experienced hiking family or group, as going down can be quite precarious. IMG_8544The trail, at times, is simply large rocks to maneuver through, and it’s steep with loose dirt and very slippery if it’s wet. There are roots and trees with branches to grab as you make your way down. Finally, we hear the happy screams of thrill seeking jumpers and the sound of bodies hitting the water in the distance. Yay! We made it.

First pool

First pool

Once at the three pools you are on a ledge looking down. The first pool can be accessed by using a small rope with knots to climb down. The pool is about waist-deep and you can wade in the cool water. This is also the way to reach the smaller but deeper second pool.

2nd & 3rd pools

Second & third pools, looking downstream

The third pool is accessible by going around and climbing down to the beach-like area where you can relax and watch the others jump from the 20-foot ledge. I heard one person say they felt the bottom when they took the leap, and they recommended tucking your legs in on entry. There was also a rope to swing out on and fly into the pool.

jumping off the rope

Jumping off the rope

As always, when fresh-water swimming in Hawaii, make sure to check yourself for any open cuts because of the possible presence of Leptospirosis. (Even some rare cases of flesh-eating bacteria have been reportedly linked to ponds and streams.)

What comes down must go up. Time for the haul back up what is appropriately dubbed “Cardiac Hill.”

Cardiac Hill

Cardiac Hill

But for me, because of my bad knees, going up was much more comfortable than going down. I have no problems with stopping, taking a gulp of water and catching my breath. And by the way, I brought 22 oz of water…not enough. I recommend at least 32 oz or more and a couple of Power Bars for the trip. It took us one hour for the two-mile hike back to our car. I can’t accurately say how long it took going in because of our little two-mile detour.

I hope you will give this hike a try. It’s a great workout with the prize of a fun fresh water swim at the end. Happy hiking!

Suzanne takes the plunge!

Suzanne takes the plunge!

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Lantern Floating Hawaii

IMG_6063-1_edited-1From Lantern Floating Hawaii:

“Held annually on Memorial Day on Oʻahu’s south shore, Lantern Floating Hawaii brings together over 40,000 people on the beach, joined by thousands around the world via live streaming and telecast for an evening of honoring loved ones and generating collective hope toward the future.

“Lantern Floating Hawaii is a ceremony where all can come together for a personal and collective moment of remembrance, reflection, and offering gratitude to those who have gone before us. It is a chance to be surrounded by the love, understanding, and support of others — even strangers. We are strengthened as a community as we reach out to support others and build understanding of our common values and experiences.”

IMG_6072-1_edited-1This ceremony is an extravaganza. It is a finely tuned organization at it’s best. The stage alone, right on the grounds of Ala Moana Park’s Magic Island, is massive. The screen that is set up for all to see what is happening on the stage is as large as the largest screen in a movie theatre. The sound system is flawless. In all three times I’ve attended, I’ve never heard a glitch in the sound or a feedback screech. IMG_6083-1They are the best at doing what they do. On the stage you will see hula dancers and hear an orchestra. You will see traditional Japanese garb full of colors and hear taiko drums.

One of the prime reasons to join the thousands on the beach is to float your lantern, but not everyone does. On the lantern you write the name of the deceased individual you are remembering and any other sentiments you would like to include.IMG_6058-1

Step 1. Pick up your lantern in the large Lantern Request Tent that has been constructed specifically for this purpose; one lantern per family group. The lanterns are available from 10 am to 4 pm or until lanterns run out. I went to pick up my lantern during my lunch hour. There are hundreds of volunteers and many lines, so the wait isn’t too long. You will receive a bag with everything you need for your lantern. This is all offered at no charge. It is done on a donation basis.

IMG_6067-1_edited-1Step 2. They have tables set up in the “quiet area” where you assemble your lantern and write the names of who you are remembering. There are volunteers here, as well, to guide you through this step. Pens are provided, but many people bring their own writing implements of various types and colors.

The ceremony is from 6:15 pm to 7:30 pm. The lantern floating IMG_6092-1commences shortly before sunset. It begins first with boats full of large extravagant lanterns that are released into the water. These are the Collective Remembrance Lanterns. They carry prayers for all water-related accidents, victims of war, natural disasters, famine and disease. Then those with lanterns start to congregate at the water’s edge. Volunteers are available here to light your lanterns.

IMG_4642IMG_4649Parking can be a little bit of a headache, but you can park at the Convention Center (shuttle provided), Ala Moana Shopping Center, or the Ward Village area.

It’s truly an amazing event not to be missed. There is a beauty to be seen when all the lanterns are set out to sea at dusk. You will marvel at the sight. You will be entertained. You will be moved. This I promise.

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SUP Haleiwa

This day was off-the-charts fun! Our adventure began at Tropical Rush in Haleiwa.

Tropical Rush Haleiwa

Tropical Rush, Haleiwa

They have a kayak and SUP board rental, a shave ice stand, a surf shop, including great island wear, and an assortment of fun, interesting things. The friendly staff get you all set up to begin your adventure on the Anahulu river (also called Haleiwa River) where their little boat ramp is located. You can choose to go under the Haleiwa bridge and straight out to the bay or make your way upstream and drift along the lush countryside. My girlfriend and I had the privilege of having Cecilia join us for our session. She’s one half of the store’s husband-and-wife-owner team.

River entrance

River entrance

We started with the river, as it was my first time on a board, and the calm water is a great way to get your sea legs on. While paddling up this serene area, we saw a sea turtle leisurely swimming by. It poked its head up and checked us out and then slowly disappeared in the green water. As you glide up the quiet river, there are many country-style homes to see along the way. Also on the river there are other novice paddlers, so you have to be cautious to avoid any collisions. When it becomes too shallow to go any farther, it’s time to turn around and head back towards the bay. It’s a little easier going down with the lazy flow of the stream.

Thank Laird!

Thanks Laird!

Following Cecelia’s lead we continued under the bridge and out to the bay. The water was shallow and clear. Delphine pointed out a stingray just a couple of feet beneath the surface. With its distinct white spots on its back, it appeared elegantly graceful. From out in the bay you can see the majestic Waianae Range, which on this day was draped with low misty clouds. Just beautiful! The sight of the sea and the grandeur of the mountains made my heart smile, and I was immensely content to be right where I was: Out on the ocean with old and new friends experiencing something different and fun.

IMG_8511 Still following Cecelia, we headed towards Puaena Point where there were some small waves. We had fun riding the swells for a bit before we made our way back through the bay to the store to return our boards. We were out on the paddle boards for about 2 hours, and I must say, it’s definitely a great upper body workout! So check out Tropical Rush in Haleiwa for a nice time on a SUP board. The rates are quite reasonable. (More information, including rates.)

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Diamond Head State Monument

Do I really want to talk about Diamond Head? I think everybody has been to the Lookout…numerous times. Well, maybe my mainland readers (that would be my sister) would like to know about this famous hike. What’s that you say? You’ve done it too? Oh well then, I’ll just say a few words.

If you haven’t hiked to the Diamond Head Lookout, definitely go! These days the walk up to the lookout is phenomenally crowded with bus loads of tourists from all over the world. Anyone who visits Honolulu sees our Diamond Head icon in the distance, and it’s worth the trip to see the city from atop this ancient tuff cone (yes, it’s not a volcano).

It only takes about 30 minutes from the pay booth to the top. The cost is $5 per car (and the lot fills up quickly), $1 for a walk in or just $10 for a year pass, which is what I have. I used to walk up for exercise quite often, but the crowds now prevent me from keeping a good pace. But since I live just a 5-minute drive away, I still park in the Kapiolani College parking lot and simply walk from there. This gives me a nice hour and a half of cardio round trip. Please take a look at the state’s Diamond Head State Monument page, as it provides a short video and is very informative.

 

Diamond Head Sunset

Happy tourists

Happy tourists

Perfect winds for hang gliding on this day

Perfect winds for paragliding on this day

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Lulumahu Waterfall

Lulumahu Falls are just what you’d imagine a hidden Hawaiian waterfall to be: a little hard to find, somewhat challenging to get there, and stunning when you lay your eyes on the spectacular 50-foot fall. There’s not a pool deep enough to swim in, but you could sit in the inviting clear fresh water, if the mood strikes. I’ve only been to the falls once, and if it weren’t for my knowledgeable companion Mia, I would never have known which way to turn at each fork. It seemed a little confusing to me, but this I know: we definitely followed the stream.

On the way in

On the way in

Follow the stream

It only took about a half hour to reach the falls. It wasn’t too difficult, but plan on getting muddy, especially your shoes, so dress appropriately. It was lightly raining on the way in, but the weather turned into a sunny morning by the time we left. Don’t expect to be the only hikers at this fall, as it is quite popular. I think it’s only fair to mention that this is not public property. It is private and belongs to the Board of Water Supply.

A little muddy along the way

A little muddy along the way

Technically anyone doing this hike is trespassing. It’s only about 2.3 miles to the falls and back. We took a different way out from the way in, and the scenery was breathtaking. There were open grasslands, a large lake-like reservoir, stone stairs that seem to go nowhere, and a Middle Earth like bamboo forest that is really quite beautiful.

You can stand under the falls

Mia stands under the falls

The falls are located in Nuuanu, and the area to park your car is where Nuuanu Pali Drive meets the Pali Highway. The hike begins from the parking area. You have to enter through a hole in the chain link fence. It’s very wet back in the forest, but I didn’t have any encounters with mosquitos. I recommend shoes, not slippers, because you have to cross some slippery rocks in the stream. Bring water, a hiking partner, and be ready for rain.

Although shallow, it looks inviting

Although shallow, it looks inviting

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Jurassic park Jeep!

That’s me with the Jurassic Park Jeep!

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Koko Head Stairs #Stairs of Doom #Koko Crater Railway Trail

View of Hanauma Bay from top.

View of Hanauma Bay from top.

It begins here.

It begins here.

So let’s talk about Koko Head stairs. They are located in Hawaii Kai and ascend the side of Koko Head Crater. During World War II, a rail tram was installed to move men and equipment and to haul supplies up and down the mountain. There was a bunker at the summit, as well as a radar installation. The “stairs” are actually railroad ties. To get to the trail head, just drive to Koko Head District Park and park in the last parking lot. Follow the streams of fellow adventurers and you will find the Stairs of Doom.

Going down.

Going down.

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Something pretty along the way

I know many of you have conquered the stairs, but I’m sure there are quite a few that have not had the pleasure (I use this term loosely). There is a percentage of climbers that do it regularly for their workout. These highly motivated individuals bolt up and down the stairs half naked and are usually very easy on the eyes (wink). I worked with one of these maniacs who did the stairs in 12 minutes, bottom stair to top! Personally, I have yet to break 27 minutes.

On the other side of the top, you can look towards the East.

On the other side of the top, you can look towards the East.

So as for the rest of us, we trudge along doing the best we can. Maybe you’re not interested in tackling the hike for the exercise.

Looking towards Hawaii Kai.

Looking towards Hawaii Kai.

In that case, I recommend climbing it leisurely at least once because when you get that last step behind you, you can make your way around to the other side for the breathtaking vista looking towards the East. It’s a view not to miss. And once at the top of the stairs, please note the old tram still sitting on the tracks. You can easily miss it, as it is hidden in the tall weeds. You can also see where the actual engine room was as well.

Going back down is the easy part, provided you have good knees. From your car to the top and back, it’s two miles. The first time I hiked the stairs, it took me about an hour to the top. This included a frightful sight of me crawling on my hands and feet over the bridge.

The bridge can be intimidating.

The bridge can be intimidating.

After the bridge, half way there!

After the bridge, half way there!

The bridge can be daunting at first encounter. It is the half way point of the climb. There are large spaces between the rail ties, and at this point you are several feet above ground. After many trips, I can now prance right over!

There is no shade on this hike, therefore it’s quite hot in the afternoon. Early morning would offer a cooler temperature. As always, bring lots of water, wear good shoes, and eat a hearty breakfast.

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Kaena Point

The dirt road is filled with bumps, dips and rocks. Watch your step.

The dirt road is filled with bumps, dips and rocks. Watch your step.

Kaena Point is well worth the trip. It is the most Western tip of Oahu. We approached the hike from the Mokuleia side (North side of island) via Farrington Highway.

This little guy was quite aggressive.

We met a friend on the road. This little guy was quite aggressive.

Just drive all the way to the end of the road. There is ample parking and I didn’t feel like I had to worry about my car. The hike itself is basically just an easy walk down a long dirt road. It can be very hot so we started in the morning. It took us around 45-60 minutes to get to the point.

There are beautiful ocean views along the way.

There are beautiful ocean views along the way.

We stopped to take photos along the way. My “Map My Run” app clocked the distance at almost 6 miles to the point and back.

Baby Albatross

Nesting Baby Albatross

Kaena Point is home to a bird refuge for Albatross and Shearwaters. The road and paths are well marked so as not to disturb the breeding grounds.

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These 2 seals were the star attraction.

Once out on the point, there are tide pools to explore and swim in, beautiful vistas to enjoy and you might be lucky enough to spot a seal or two.

What a great day!!!

What a great day!!!

All in all it was an incredible day. Don’t forget your water, snacks, sunblock and swim suit.

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There are signs explaining the wildlife in the area.

There are signs explaining the wildlife in the area.

Clean your shoes before entering Bird Refuge

Clean your shoes before entering the Bird Refuge

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Dogs, Mongoose, Rats....keep out!

Dogs, Mongoose, Rats….keep out!

Wedge Tailed Shearwater (photo by Mialisa)

Wedge Tailed Shearwater (photo by Mialisa)

We found our own private pool.

We found our own private pool to swim in.

View of the West Side from the point.

View of the West Side from the point.

View of the North Side of the island from the point.

View of the North Side of the island from the point.

A coral rock beach.

A coral rock beach.

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